What is a Crisis Nursery?

Crisis nurseries are a type of respite for children at risk of abuse and/or neglect. They offer voluntary temporary relief for caregivers and families, of children with disabilities, chronic or terminal illnesses, or children at risk of abuse and neglect. A parent experiencing extreme stress can utilize a crisis nursery as a safe haven for their children. Crisis nurseries were first developed in the early 1970's.

A Crisis Nursery provides some or all of the following:

    * Experienced, trained and caring staff and volunteers
    * Voluntary and confidential services
    * Family counseling
    * Individual counseling
    * Free services
    * 24-hour crisis helpline
    * Overnight or daytime, based on availability
    * Resource and referral services
    * Crisis problem solving
    * Service for children that varies in age range (often 1-6)

How are they funded?

Most Crisis Nurseries are funded through a variety of sources including; government grants, charitable trusts, fund raising and private donations from within the community. In 1986 Congress passed the Temporary Child Care for Children with Disabilities and Crisis Nurseries Act, establishing federal funding to create temporary child care (respite) demonstration projects including crisis nursery services.

Crisis Nursery Models:

Crisis nursery programs vary based on the needs of each community. Some are available to families in temporary situational emergencies; others serve the needs of children who appear to be at risk of abuse or neglect. Crisis nursery's often utilize existing day care centers, licensed private homes or local emergency shelters.

Who uses a Crisis Nursery?

Those making use of the crisis nursery come from diverse backgrounds, ordinary people in extraordinary situations, in need of temporary help. When a parent finds they are under extreme stress and worry they might lash out at their child, feel isolated, and have no family members to turn to they can turn to a crisis nursery. Crisis nursiers work to prevent the parents problems from becoming the child's problems.

An example of a Crisis Nursery:

The Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery located in Spokane, Washington was started in 1982 after the tragic death of a small child. The Nursery has provided a safe respite for parents and caregivers for over two decades. It is funded through grants, local donations from various business and the people in the community. Yearly KXLY Channel 4 news has a "Child Abuse Prevention day" and provides a free telethon to help foster awareness of the Crisis Nursery and collect donations for them.

It is well known in the community and I've known personally a parent who has utilized the Crisis Nursery's services. Her life was out of control, and as we all know most children pick up on their parents angst themselves. She had gotten to the point where she felt she was on her 'last straw' and that her child had gotten on her 'last nerve" - after unsuccessfully looking for a friend to take her child for the night - she turned to the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery. They took her child in for the night and after an intake evaluation offered my friend a great deal of information on community resources available to her. She used the Crisis Nursery a few more times over the following months and has since, through some of the resources offered her at the Crisis Nursery, gotten her life together.

How to help:

There is a great need in today's society for Crisis Nurseries and yet only a handful of them are available. You could start one in your area, or volunteer to work at one locally. Write a letter to thank and encourage those volunteering at one now. If you ever find yourself in need of a Crisis Nursery and find there are none available in your area - when your own life is again manageable - perhaps you can put it out there to those in your community and help to get one started.